foodpro 2014 showcased some fantastic technologies and ideas. There were several things that caught our eye as we wandered off our stand around the halls. We’ve already talked about the exacting precision of JMP Engineering’s palletizing machine with vacuum gripper (see their tips on choosing the right palletizing system), but we were also impressed with a “patent pending” sign on the stand of 80-year-old machinery company Walls. Innovation is perhaps why they’re still going strongly after 80 years!
So what are the opportunities and challenges in the food packaging industry? I caught up with Rob Lawrence, General Manager of Walls Machinery, to get his thoughts.
Walls Machinery is a big name in Australian food packaging and processing equipment. For 80 years, the family-owned company has been supplying some of the industry’s best quality brands and manufacturers with packaging machinery solutions — everything from robotic equipment to specialist machines for pouches, tube filling and sealing, and more.
One thing to notice about Walls is that they never stop innovating. It’s their continuous ingenuity that has seen them thriving for the best part of a century. Case in point is that as I was talking to Rob at his foodpro stand, we were in front of the company’s newest invention: the Adaptapack Dual Collater machine, proudly displaying a big “patent pending” sign. (See our wrap-up here on AUSPACK 2015, where Walls won a commendation for their Adaptapack Ulysses Shelf Ready Case Packer in the 2015 APPMA Industry Excellence Awards.)
Rob told us this collater, which has been two years in the making, uses two robots to collate and pack products into shelf-ready cases. It’s no coincidence that this is the first of the three trends Rob highlighted. So here they are:
3 top trends in food packaging
1. Shelf ready, supermarket ready
With supermarket chains seeking to improve in-store efficiencies, they put pressure on the manufacturers and distributors to provide packaging that makes it quicker and easier to get the product on the shelves. In their eyes, the less handling required in-store, the better. At the same time, it needs to be easy for the consumer to access products.
Brand owners are scrambling to meet retailers’ requests with shelf-ready solutions. The type of shelf-ready package depends on the specific retail environment where the products will sit. So what’s the perfect shelf-ready package? It comes in the form of a shipping package that can be almost instantly shelf-ready. Rather than putting packets individually onto the shelves, store staff have “one touch” shelf replenishment. At the same time, the brand benefits from better product recognition and faster sales, and the consumer can find exactly what they want quickly. It’s win-win-win. And win. (You may find this article from our Thought Leader series on why manufacturers have been slow to take up SRP interesting.)
2. Packaged fresh produce
The same factors driving shelf-ready packaging are driving the trend towards packaged fresh produce. An increasing number of fresh foods are housed in packaging to make life easier for the supermarket and consumer, while also giving the distributor benefits. Packaging provides the opportunity to build a brand, boost brand loyalty and, therefore, increase sales. There’s also an increase in “fresh kits”, which provide everything consumers need to whip up a specific meal in one easy package, such as “soup packs” and “stew packs”.
Vegies in a pouch, herbs in a pouch, meat in a pouch — today almost every type of food has the potential of being packaged in a pouch. The reasons for this are simple: pouches give greater flexibility and cost savings than cans, bottles and other forms of “hard” packaging. It’s also a clever marketing approach. Pouches can stimulate sales of a flailing product and boost the success of new ones. Single-serve pouches are also an opportunity for brand owners to meet consumer trends, in particular the desire for food “on the go” at their convenience.
While the trend towards pouches is not new, it is growing. And more types of food than ever before are being packaged in a pouch. Take Gourmet Garden, which won Best in Category for packaging and graphics in the Good Design Australia Awards 2014 for its lightly dried herbs in re-sealable pinch pouches. The packaging makes it possible for consumers to add fresh herbs to their cooking every day, right out of the pouch. Every element of the pouch is designed with the consumer in mind: it’s re-sealable to meet consumer demand for a multiple-use product; transparent so consumers can see the fresh herbs they’re getting; and the opening is big enough to fit a hand taking a pinch.
We think the pouches are so clever, we’ve included them as one of our “manufacturing lessons for 2015”, and see how optimising your packaging can optimise your supply chain. They’re also among the top 5 trends for contract packers to be aware of.
These are not the only trends in food packaging, but they are the three that are currently driving brand owners and equipment providers to step up their R&D and introduce exciting new solutions.
For more articles on what’s trending in the food industry, check out other articles on our blog. If you need more information on how to improve your food packaging, make an online enquiry to Matthews today.